As defined by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a "digital footprint" is the trail of data and information that is left behind by people using any digital service available online. This concept is also sometimes referred to as a "digital tattoo", as the permanence and indelibility of one's information trail bears many similarities to tattoos.
One's digital footprint can have many implications on safety, both personally and legally. On a personal level, the longevity of the potentially embarrassing or negative statements and actions of one's youth can come back to haunt one later in life when applying to universities or competing for a job. Legally, a lack of care in maintaining one's digital footprint is nearly impossible to remove. Even though some nations in Europe have recently begun contemplating the "right to be forgotten", the ability to have negative information about oneself removed from the Internet, the very nature of the online world makes this practically impossible to remove all traces of a given bit of information.
While it's certainly a daunting prospect, having an indelible online presence isn't necessarily a negative thing. If you are conscious of this from a young age, it can be a powerful tool to improve your appeal to universities and potential employers. As a student, there are several important tips you can bear in mind to encourage the development of your online footprint. These can be found on Teach Thought.

Tips for Students:
  • They can be sure to keep track of all of their online accounts and make sure to delete ones they no longer use. In this way, they can at least keep accounts that would otherwise have wildly outdated information from confusing the image they seek to project.
  • It's important to avoid over-sharing. While it's understandable to seek to be understood online through social media platforms, it's important that you keep in mind that everything you post will be attached to your name virtually forever. You probably wouldn't want to have something you thought four years ago follow you around now, so imagine how you'll feel ten years from now about things you've said in the past.
  • It's important to Google yourself regularly, to see how you're being represented online. Further ideas can be found at Teach Hub.

Tips for Educators:
  • It is important to maintain a personal website, both to communicate with coworkers, students, and parents and to provide a visible example of yourself as an active educator. An absence of information can be nearly as damning as a wealth of negative information, as a person being vigorously scrubbed from the internet raises questions as to why they felt the need to be so thoroughly removed.
  • It can be helpful to have multiple email accounts in order to separate out information pertaining to various aspects of one's life. It can be helpful to have one for work, one for personal correspondence, and one for sites that only allow you to use them with an email address.
  • It's also important as a teacher to keep an eye on how you represent your personal life online. Even if no laws are being broken in your personal life, certain hobbies or activities can lead to your being judged harshly due to your chosen career.

Tips for Parents:
  • Some parents have already gotten into the habit of reserving domain names for their children, so that when the children get older they can have control over the content of webpages whose URLs include their names.
  • It can be very useful for parents to model and encourage positive online behavior, through their own actions and through interacting with their children online. Parents can also talk to their children, discussing how and why different behaviors online may or may not be a good idea. Other suggestions for parents are available at Parent Guide News.